Blue Ticks for Sale: The Latest Shift In Social Media Misinformation

Social media discourse has been thrown into a frenzy following Ellon Musk’s announcement last Thursday that he has now acquired Twitter for $44bn (£38bn). One of the proposed changes that are causing controversy among experts is the verification process, with users potentially being charged $8 (£7) a month for a coveted blue tick on their account. Alex Payne, CEO and co-founder of Room Unlocked a platform advocating for transparency and authenticity in influencer culture and social media – argues Twitter’s checkmark should be awarded on the basis of credibility.

Blue Ticks for Sale: The Latest Shift In Social Media Misinformation

In a bid to tackle misinformation and fake news, the blue verification check was introduced to inform users that the account was actually run by the person it claimed to be. However, starting in 2016, relaxations to the verification process have meant Twitter is now arguably flooded with blue ticks; being used as an arbitrary symbol of ‘fame’ or ‘status’ rather than one of trust and authority.

However, under Musk’s current proposal, allowing anyone to pay to be verified does not address the issue, but creates a whole new one. The problem with verification-by-payment is that anyone will be able to pay for this staple of trust, rather than earn it. Therefore, the blue tick could be attached to accounts that are untrustworthy and potentially dangerous, making it easier for internet antagonisers to pose as authoritative figures and fool innocent users.

The lack of trust that paid content generates among users was highlighted in landmark research by Room Unlocked with 61% of Brits saying that monetised content on social media turns them off from the brand being plugged. Modern-day consumers are savvy enough to know when their favourite influencer or celebrity is probably pocketing from mentioning a product on their social media, meaning they are now demanding for organic and genuine collaborations. Further reinforcing this, Room Unlocked’s study unveiled 43% of Brits say they trust influencers who aren’t getting paid to plug products more than those who are.

Alex Payne CEO and co-founder of Room Unlocked, comments:

“I like Elon Musk and respect his journey to success. Yet, his introductory decisions with Twitter have left me questioning whether the platform will lose its credibility. 

“His move to charge for Twitter verification is a curious one in a time when online truth, authenticity, security and safety is becoming ever more essential. I feel uncomfortable with the decision to generate revenue from one of the few platforms that offer a respite from internet misinformation.

“Online accountability is a pressing issue, but we’re not going to see any significant change if people are asked to pay for it.

“I have been on Twitter since 2009 and have been verified for a decade. My finger has hovered over the delete account button a few times in the past, and my engagement with the platform has declined significantly in the last couple of years. I have no interest in paying for a blue tick – and Musk’s changes to the platform have made me reconsider my presence on it.”